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Archery range and rural community take aim at quarry plans near Elgin amid noise, dust and traffic worries

Residents fear the industrial development will destroy their peaceful community in the countryside.

Andrew and Lorraine Kelly next to archery target with arrows.
Lorraine and Andrew Kelly and dozens others in the community have concerns about the quarry. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Owners of an archery range near Elgin fear a new quarry planned for their doorstep could force them to close due to noise from the development making their sport impossible.

The business is among dozens of residents in a rural community outraged about the potential impact of the concrete production facility.

The land south of the town near Birnie and Thomshill is currently a pig farm with panoramic countryside views.

Locals are up in arms that proposals from Aberdeen-based Leiths (Scotland) Limited will bring insufferable noise, clouds of dust and extra haulage traffic.

Entrance to Birnie Hall with "no to the quarry" sign outside.
Signs opposing the development have been put up at Birnie Hall. Image: David Mackay/DC Thomson

Posters have already been put up in the tiny community and dozens packed a consultation event this week to quiz developers.

Leiths say all comments are being carefully considered as final plans are being drawn up.

Meanwhile, residents say the quarry risks destroying their rural way of life near Elgin while making archery potentially too dangerous to continue.

‘Nobody will want to come to an archery range next to a quarry’

Andrew and Lorraine Kelly established Moray Archery in 2004 and moved to their current location nine years ago.

The site was chosen with the specific aim of building a purpose-built facility capable of holding recognised events.

Organisers of national and regional competitions have since been persuaded to move away from venues in the Central Belt in favour of Moray, where there are five archery clubs alone.

However, Mr Kelly fears the Birnie quarry plans near Elgin, which are proposed for directly across the road from his home and business, will ruin his business and make archery in the area impossible.

Andrew Kelly with pig farm behind.
The proposed quarry site across from Moray Archery, about two miles south of Elgin, is currently a pig farm. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

He said: “You’re always going to want somewhere nice and quiet and peaceful. Archery is potentially very dangerous with lots of distractions from noise.

“If someone’s attention is taken, the arrow can end up anywhere. I don’t think our neighbours would be too happy with that prospect either.

“If people can’t concentrate, then they’re not going to want to come here.”

Mr Kelly explained developers had told him a 10ft embankment had been proposed to try and minimise the noise from the quarry.

He said: “It’s not something you really can mitigate. We can already hear a quarry that is a mile and half away.

“This one is going to be right across the road from us.”

Quarry health concerns for Birnie residents

Business owner Ronnie Gillespie has been running a garage from the area since 1991.

The first he learned of the plans were when farm owner Bill Mustard, a member of the local community council, visited his home to inform him.

However, suspicions were already running due to crews being seen in the fields taking soil samples.

Mr Gillespie said: “I was so upset when I was told. I’ve never had any plans of moving from here.

“It’s the noise and the dust. We’re just worried we’re going to be living with this quarry 24/7.

Mark Thomson and Ronnie Gillespie outside Birnie Hall.
Birnie residents Mark Thomson and Ronnie Gillespie. Image: David Mackay/DC Thomson

“I’ve got relatives with (lung disease) COPD. They’re not going to be able to go out in the garden now, that’s no way to live.”

Mark Thomson moved to the area about seven years ago to fulfil his dream of bringing up his two children, aged 13 and nine.

Both currently get the school bus into Elgin from a T-junction that could become the perimeter of the quarry.

Mr Thomson said: “Every morning they’re going to be walking directly into the cement dust from the quarry.

“I’m asthmatic myself too. The cement dust is a very big worry for us. Leiths say they can control it, but I don’t see how.”

Quarry traffic would add to existing distillery HGVs

The road running on the eastern boundary of the quarry is already heavily used by HGVs from the Diageo-owned Mannochmore and Glenlossie distilleries.

Retired accountant Athol Munro and retired engineer Alistair Harper both point to damage on the road through Thomshill from the lorries.

Alistair Harper and Athol Munro on main road in Thomshill
Birnie residents Alistair Harper and Athol Munro. Image: David Mackay/DC Thomson

They have questioned whether the local infrastructure is capable of accommodating the extra traffic with a Springfield housing development already under construction about one mile away.

Mr Harper said: “Transport is a serious issue for us. There’s a lot of traffic here already. They’re already having to widen the road near where the new houses are being built.”

Mr Munro said: “The prevailing wind in this area comes from the west. Alistair and I are neighbours and live only about 200 metres downwind from the quarry.

“This land is greenbelt. You wouldn’t be able to build a house here, not easily anyway, so I don’t see why an industrial quarry should be allowed.

Colin McCarthy and Andrew Kelly in Thomshill next to main road.
Birnie residents Colin McCarthy and Andrew Kelly. Image: David Mackay/DC Thomson

“The only good thing I can say about it is that it’s brought the community together.”

Military veteran Colin McCarthy added: “My wife was a police officer, so we’ve both been in bad places, and this was our place to come for peace to retire. That’s going to get shattered now.”

What are the Elgin quarry plans?

Leiths has submitted a pre-application for the quarry at Dykeside Farm to Moray Council, which means the proposals are still at an early stage of development.

A separate full planning application would have to be submitted in order to get permission for the plans.

Documents from Leiths says the firm wants to extract 1.125 million tonnes of sand and gravel over a period of 22 years at an average of 50,000 tonnes a year.

Proposed site of quarry

The material is intended for the construction industry, including in ready-mix concrete, drainage and landscaping.

Aberdeen-based Leiths already runs three quarries in Moray at Bluehill near Craigellachie, Parkmore near Dufftown and Rafford near Forres.

Colin Ortlepp, the firm’s planning and development manager, said: “Leiths (Scotland) Limited are currently undertaking pre-application consultation with the local community regarding our proposed new sand and gravel quarry at Dykeside Farm near Elgin.

“All comments received are being carefully reviewed, and concerns raised, including those noted in respect of noise, dust and road traffic, will be taken into account in the development of the quarrying plans which will be the subject of a planning application in due course.”